Athletics & Recreation / Magazine Feature

Voelker continues DU dominance in women’s State Open tennis

DU alum Mallory Voelker warms up before a match in the Colorado State Open. Photo: Richard Chapman.

For the fourth straight year, a DU athlete has won the women’s singles title of the Colorado State Open tennis tournament.

Mallory Voelker (BA ’09), DU’s No. 1 singles player in 2008 and 2009 and a former Sun Belt Conference player of the year, earned the crown Sunday with a hard-fought straight-set victory over fifth-seeded Jackie Carleton 6-4, 7-6 at Gates Tennis Center in Denver.

“She mixed up her strategy, which surprised me,” Voelker said. “But I found a way to win.”

It wasn’t easy. After outworking Carleton for the first set, Voelker was broken twice, falling behind 3-0. She fought her way back to 5-4 and had a chance to serve out the match only to be broken on Carleton’s challenging mix of low drives and arcing moonballs. At 6-6, Voelker stepped up her game, stealing the championship in a tiebreaker on strong serves and crisp groundstrokes, 7 points to 4.

The win was the high spot in the woman’s draw, which saw DU sophomore and 2009 State Open champion Sophia Bergner forced out in the second round by an ankle injury.

DU sophomore Steffi Rath worked her way to the quarterfinals but lost to professional Vasilisa Bardina, who in the next round stretched Voelker to three tough sets before losing 6-7, 6-3, 7-5.

Voelker’s victory led a field of nine DU players and coaches who competed in the State Open, the premier all-round tennis tournament in Colorado. Injuries and problems adjusting to hard courts nagged many of DU’s players, with overall results mixed, says DU head coach Danny Westerman. The best outcome was by Andrew Landwerlen and Jens Vorkefeld, who fought their way to the finals of the Open doubles, where they lost to touring professionals Roman Borvanov and Nick Monroe 6-2; 6-2.

“They [the DU team] looked sharp; the chemistry was great,” Westerman says. “The score was not indicative of how close it was. Roman and Nick are professionals, very seasoned players. It was good for our guys to be playing them. [Andrew and Jens] did real well and have the potential to be our No. 1 doubles team.”

Underscoring the stiff competition was that Borvanov, ranked 835 in the world in singles, and Monroe, who has played in the Australian Open, U.S Open and Wimbledon, ended up facing one another in the men’s final, where Borvanov outmuscled his doubles partner 6-4; 6-4.

Other 2010 tournament highlights included strong showings by DU senior Varun Gunaseelan, with wins in the qualifying round and main draw, and a doubles championship by Alvie Willis (BSBA ’55, MA ’70), who was DU’s No. 1 in 1954 and 1955. Willis, 77, and partner Dave Harguth, 70, won the 70-and-older doubles 6-1; 6-2.

DU volunteer assistant coach Willie Dann also posted solid results in the Open singles, where he was upended in the quarterfinals on a third-set tiebreaker by three-time men’s champion Cory Ross, 4-6; 6-2; 7-6. In the men’s open doubles, Dann and partner Lewis Miller, seeded second, lost in the semifinals to Landwerlen and Vorkefeld 6-4; 6-2.

“It was a good tournament for our guys who were healthy to get some good matches in,” Westerman says.

The experience should help Sept. 24–26 when DU hosts varsity men’s teams from New Mexico and Minnesota in the DU Invitational. Matches will be at Gates Tennis Center, on Bayaud Avenue east of the Cherry Creek Shopping Center, and begin at 10 a.m. each day. The Pioneers’ first action is 1 p.m. Friday against the Lobos in doubles and at 2 p.m. against the Golden Gophers in singles. Admission is free. 

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